Posts Tagged ‘U.S. military’

Keyboard Warriors: South Korea, U.S. Gear Up for War Games to Counter North Korea Threat

August 19, 2017

SEOUL — In air conditioned bunkers and at military bases across South Korea, it is with keyboards – not tanks – that South Korean and the U.S. forces will launch military exercises on Monday, denounced by North Korea as a rehearsal for war.

The Aug. 21 to Aug. 31 exercises involve computer simulations designed to prepare for the unthinkable: war with nuclear-capable North Korea.

The wargames, details of which are a closely guarded secret, simulate military conflict with the isolated country. The U.S. describes them as “defensive in nature,” a term North Korean state media has dismissed as a “deceptive mask”.

“The drills deal with all the steps involved in a war, of course, towards victory,” said Moon Seong-mook, a retired South Korean brigadier who regularly participated in the drills until the mid-2000s.

Far from the dusty firing ranges just south of the heavily fortified border with North Korea, U.S. and South Korean troops hunch over laptops and screens wearing earphones and camouflaged combat uniforms, according to photos of past UFG drills on the United States Forces Korea website.

The U.S. military describes the software behind the drills as “state-of-the-art wargaming computer simulations”. There will be no field training during the exercise, according to U.S. Forces Korea.

As part of the exercises, imagery from military satellites orbiting above the Korean peninsula, is at times used to peer deep into North Korea, said a former South Korean government official who declined to be identified.

Banks of monitors and computer graphics create simulated battlefields, complete with troop movements, according to Park Yong-han, a military expert formerly with the state-run Korea Institute for Defence Analysis.

“You can expand a certain area to see what troops are in what sort of status and where they will move,” said Park.

“In the case of North Korea, we can’t see everything in real time but the military deduces the locations of North Korean troops, including the leadership during the exercise”.

That focus on the North Korean leadership is what particularly infuriates Pyongyang, experts say.

“We cannot stand the fact the enemy tries to form schemes to assassinate our leadership,” North Korea’s state news agency, KCNA, said in July.

“We will follow to the ends of the earth those who dare try to harm our core.”

COMMANDO RAID

North Korea’s rapid progress in developing nuclear weapons and missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland has fuelled a surge in tension.

U.S. President Donald Trump warned that North Korea would face “fire and fury” if it threatened the United States. The North responded by threatening to fire missiles towards the U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam.

The North later said it was holding off firing towards Guam, while it waited to see what the United States would do next.

Called Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG), the joint drills have their roots in a 1968 raid on South Korea’s Blue House presidential complex, when Unit 124 of the North Korean army secretly entered South Korea and unsuccessfully attempted to assassinate the then president, Park Chung-hee.

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The United States had been conducting regular “command and control” drills in the years following the 1950-53 Korean War, but combined exercises with the South Korean military following the failed raid, in which all but two of the North Korean commandos were killed.

The United States has about 28,000 troops in South Korea. Many of them will be joining thousands of South Korean forces in the exercise.

Other South Korean allies are also joining this year with troops from Australia, Britain, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand taking part.

“It’s to prepare if something big were to occur and we needed to protect ROK,” a U.S. military spokeswoman, Michelle Thomas, said, referring to South Korea by the initials of its official name, the Republic of Korea.

North and South Korea are still technically at war with the North after the Korean War ended with a truce, not a peace treaty.

China, North Korea’s main ally and trading partner, has urged the United States and South Korea to scrap the drills and so has Russia.

The United States has not backed down.

“My advice to our leadership is that we not dial back our exercises,” said Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff on Thursday in Beijing.

“The exercises are very important to maintaining the ability of the alliance to defend itself”.

(Reporting by Christine Kim and Heekyong Yang; Editing by Robert Birsel)

US reviews war strategy for Afghanistan

August 18, 2017
Taliban and ISIL fighters. Reuters file photo

President Donald Trump and his national security advisors meet on Friday to discuss US strategy for the war in Afghanistan.

The 16-year conflict is the United States’ longest war, and there are 8,400 US soldiers still on the ground battling the deadly insurgency.

Options being considered include sending more American troops, withdrawing US forces completely, or replacing them with private contractors.

Al Jazeera’s Jennifer Glasse reports from Kabul.

Video:

http://www.aljazeera.com/video/news/2017/08/reviews-war-strategy-afghanistan-170818065049022.html

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Security officials inspect the scene of the blast outside the Great Mosque in Herat, August 1, 2017.

Top US generals issue veiled criticism of Donald Trump’s Charlottesville comments

August 17, 2017

Mr Trump has faced widespread criticism after saying there were ‘two sides to every story’

By Chloe FarandAndrew Buncombe New York

The Independent

Two senior US military officers have made what has been interpreted as veiled criticism of Donald Trump in the wake of his comments about the Nazi-led violence in Charlottesville.

Mark A Milley, the US Army Chief of Staff, said in a tweet the army did not accept “racism, extremism and hatred”, though he did not specifically condemn the President, or even mention him.

In the tweet, Mr Milley said: “The Army doesn’t tolerate racism, extremism, or hatred in our rank. It’s against our values and everything we’ve stood for since 1775.”

The Army doesn’t tolerate racism, extremism, or hatred in our ranks. It’s against our Values and everything we’ve stood for since 1775.

Another senior officer, General Robert B Neller, Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, also appeared to counter Mr Trump’s comments. “No place for racial hatred or extremism in @USMC. Our core values of Honour, Courage, and Commitment frame the way Marines live and act,” he said on Twitter.

No place for racial hatred or extremism in @USMC. Our core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment frame the way Marines live and act.

Mr Trump has faced widespread criticism since he veered off the teleprompter at an infrastructure press launch and began answering questions as to whether or not he had been slow to denounce white supremacist-led violence that resulted in the death of one young woman, Heather Heyer, and the injury of up to 20 others over the weekend.

Mr Trump had initially sought to say there had been wrong on “all sides”, but under intense pressure from within his own party and without, he then issued a statement in which he said racism was evil and denounced white supremacy and neo-Nazism.

But as he was questioned on Tuesday afternoon about his slow-paced response to the incident, Mr Trump became defensive and then went on the attack.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly watches on nervously at Trump’s Charlottesville press briefing

“You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent,” he said. “I thought what happened was a horrible moment for our country, but there are two sides to every story.”

Many public figures and officials have come out to condemn the violence at the white supremacists’ rally in the Virginia college town, including senior member of the Republican Party. There have been mounting calls for the President to fire a number of his White House staff, among them Steve Bannon, who have been accused of promoting nationalism or white nationalism. Mr Trump notedly refused to voice his support for Mr Bannon when he was asked at the same press conference.

This is not the first time that Mr Milley has appeared to stand up to some of  Mr Trump’s more controversial comments or directives. Last month, when Mr Trump tweeted that transgender people could not serve in the armed forces, Mr Milley was among those within the military hierarchy that said it would not act on the announcement until it received a formal directive from the White House.

“We grow up and learn to obey the chain of command, and my chain of command is secretary of the Army, secretary of Defence and the president,” Mr Milley said. “We will work through the implementation guidance when we get it. …To my knowledge, the Department of Defence, Secretary Mattis has not received written directives yet.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/mark-milley-us-army-chief-staff-donald-trump-charlottesville-latest-racism-extremism-hate-neo-nazi-a7896366.html

Assad’s March East Compounds West’s Syria Dilemma

August 17, 2017

BEIRUT/AMMAN — Syria’s war has entered a new phase as President Bashar al-Assad extends his grip in areas being captured from Islamic State, using firepower freed by Russian-backed truces in western Syria.

Backed by Russia and Iran, the government hopes to steal a march on U.S.-backed militias in the attack on Islamic State’s last major Syrian stronghold, the Deir al-Zor region that extends to the Iraqi border. Damascus hailed the capture of the town of al-Sukhna on Saturday as a big step in that direction.

The eastward march to Deir al-Zor, unthinkable two years ago when Assad seemed in danger, has underlined his ever more confident position and the dilemma facing Western governments that still want him to leave power in a negotiated transition.

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The war for western Syria, long Assad’s priority, has shifted down several gears thanks to the ceasefires, including one organised by Moscow and Washington in the southwest.

But there is no sign of these truces leading to a revival of peace talks aimed at putting Syria back together through a negotiated deal that would satisfy Assad’s opponents and help resolve a refugee crisis of historic proportions.

Instead, Assad’s face has been printed on Syrian banknotes for the first time, and his quest for outright victory suggests he may retrain his guns on rebel pockets in the west once his goals in the east are accomplished. Attacks on the last rebel stronghold near Damascus have escalated this month.

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U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to end CIA support to rebels further weakened the insurgency in western Syria, while also depriving Western policymakers of one of their few levers of pressure.

They can only watch as Iranian influence increases through a multitude of Shi’ite militias, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah, that have been crucial to Assad’s gains and seem likely to remain in Syria for the foreseeable future, sealing Tehran’s ascendancy.

Assad’s opponents now hope his Russian allies will conclude he must be removed from power as the burden of stabilizing the country weighs and the West withholds reconstruction support.

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With hundreds of thousands of people killed and militias controlling swathes of the country, Assad’s opponents say Syria can never be stable again with him in power.

“There is little doubt that the Russians would like a political solution to the war. The war is costly for them, and the longer it lasts, the less it will appear to be a success for Putin,” said Rolf Holmboe, Research Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and former Danish Ambassador to Syria.

“But the Russians want a solution on their terms, which is one where Assad stays in power,” he said.

“The ceasefires do two things. They allow the Russians to take control of the political negotiations and look good internationally. But more importantly, they allow Assad and the Iranian-backed militias to free troops to grab the territory that Islamic State is about to lose.”

THE WAR FOR DEIR AL-ZOR

The eastwards advance has on occasion brought government forces and their Iranian-backed allies into conflict with the U.S. military and the forces it is backing in a separate campaign against Islamic State.

But the rival campaigns have mostly stayed out of each other’s way. Government forces have skirted the area where Kurdish-led militias supported by Washington are fighting Islamic State in Raqqa. The U.S.-led coalition has stressed it is not seeking war with Assad.

Bisected by the Euphrates River, Deir al-Zor and its oil resources are critical to the Syrian state. The province is entirely in the hands of IS except for a government stronghold in Deir al-Zor city and a nearby air base. It is also in the crosshairs of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

SDF spokesman Talal Silo told Reuters on Wednesday there would be an SDF campaign towards Deir al-Zor “in the near future”, though the SDF was still deciding whether it would be delayed until Raqqa was fully captured from Islamic State.

But questions remain over whether the government and its allies, or the U.S.-backed militias, have the required manpower. IS has rebased many of its fighters and leaders in Deir al-Zor. The Syrian army is drawing on the support of local tribal militias in its advances, local tribal figures say.

A Western-backed Syrian rebel with detailed knowledge of the area said Deir al-Zor would be a tough prospect. “Deir al-Zor tribes are more intertwined with those of Iraq,” the rebel said, describing them as religious hardliners.

Andrew Tabler, a Syria specialist at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think-tank, said Assad hoped to regain international legitimacy through the campaign against IS.

“They believe that by doing so they can get reconstruction money, and they believe that things are going to go back to the way they were before. That’s just not going to happen,” he said.

There has been no sign that Western states are ready to rehabilitate Assad, accused by Washington of repeatedly using chemical weapons during the war, most recently in April. Syria denies using chemical weapons.

RULING “ATOP RUINS”

The April attack triggered a U.S. missile strike against a Syrian airbase. But the U.S. response was calibrated to avoid confrontation with Moscow, and has not resulted in further such action.

Trump’s decision to shut down the CIA programme of support meanwhile played to Assad’s advantage and came as a blow to the opposition. Rebel sources say the programme will be phased out towards the end of the year.

Damascus has been pressing ahead with its strategy for pacifying western Syria, pursuing local agreements with rebellious areas that have resulted in thousands of rebel fighters being sent to insurgent areas of the north.

But significant areas of western Syria remain in rebel hands, notably Idlib province in the northwest, a corner of the southwest, an area north of Homs, and the Eastern Ghouta of Damascus.

In the southwestern province of Deraa, one of the areas in the U.S.-Russian truce, the government is seeking investment in reconstruction, the provincial governor told al-Watan newspaper, saying the “shelling phase” was over.

Shunned by the West, the government hopes China will be a major player in the reconstruction. Seeking to project an image of recovery, Damascus this week will host a trade fair.

“The regime is quite keen to imply by signals that it doesn’t care, that ‘we are fine, we are really utterly prepared just to sit atop ruins, and to speak to friends who will help us with our project’,” said a Western diplomat.

Mohanad Hage Ali, director of communications at the Carnegie Middle East Center, said the Assads have been “masters of the waiting game”. Time is on their side, he said. “But they have two challenges: political normalisation with the world, and the economic challenge, which is significant.”

(Writing by Tom Perry; editing by Giles Elgood)

Trump to Discuss Afghan Strategy With Security Team on Friday

August 16, 2017

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will meet with their national security team on Friday at Camp David to discuss U.S. strategy in South Asia, a White House spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

The administration has been working to develop a new strategy for the long-running conflict in Afghanistan and the Pakistan border region as it decides whether to deploy additional troops to combat recent Taliban advances.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Writing by David Alexander; Editing by Tim Ahmann)

Seoul Warns U.S. Against Unilateral Military Action Against North Korea

August 15, 2017

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said allied military action could only be taken on the Korean Peninsula with Seoul’s consent

South Korean President Moon Jae-in marked the 72nd anniversary of the Japanese surrender in WWII.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in marked the 72nd anniversary of the Japanese surrender in WWII. PHOTO: CHUNG SUNG-JUN/GETTY IMAGES
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Aug. 15, 2017 3:14 a.m. ET

South Korea’s president warned the U.S. would need Seoul’s consent for any military action on the Korean Peninsula, and renewed calls for talks with the North, after Pyongyang said it had decided not to carry out a plan to attack the U.S. territory of Guam with missiles.

President Moon Jae-in extended the latest olive branch to North Korea in a speech Tuesday on the 72nd anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II.

He called on the regime to suspend nuclear and missile tests as a precondition for talks, and offered a fresh invitation for the North to attend next year’s Winter Olympics in South Korea.

But in a message that appeared to be aimed at Washington, he said that allied military action could only be taken on the Korean Peninsula with the consent of South Korea, an implicit signal that Mr. Moon wouldn’t tolerate any unilateral action by the U.S. to strike North Korea following weeks of escalating tensions.

“War must never break out again on the Korean Peninsula. Only the Republic of Korea can make the decision for military action on the Korean Peninsula,” he said, using the country’s formal name.

The U.S. Embassy in Seoul declined to comment on Mr. Moon’s speech Tuesday, which was a holiday in Korea.

Mr. Moon reiterated his support for further sanctions on North Korea, saying such an approach could help bring Pyongyang to the negotiating table. He argued that the last time North Korea agreed to a moratorium on nuclear and missile testing, its relations with South Korea, the U.S. and Japan improved.

“The past history of the North Korean nuclear problem showed that a clue to resolving the problem was found when sanctions were combined with dialogue,” he said.

An escalation of threats between Washington and Pyongyang has rattled world leaders, injected uncertainty into markets, and sparked fear of a nuclear showdown. The WSJ’s Shelby Holliday takes a look back at the week. Photo: AP
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Mr. Moon, South Korea’s first left-leaning president in nearly a decade, has called for closer cooperation with North Korea. In his speech Tuesday, Mr. Moon appeared to push for more independence from the U.S. on military affairs, though he emphasized, on two separate occasions, that his position wasn’t different from Washington’s.

“We cannot rely only on our ally for our security,” Mr. Moon said. “When it comes to matters related to the Korean Peninsula, our country has to take the initiative in resolving them.”

Hours earlier, North Korea pulled back its threat to attack Guam after days of trading increasingly bellicose rhetoric with U.S. President Donald Trump.

North Korean state media said that Kim Jong Un had made his decision not to fire on Guam after visiting a military command post and examining a military plan presented to him by his senior officers. But it warned that he could change his mind “if the Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions.”

The announcement came after China banned imports of key North Korean materials, Beijing’s toughest steps against Pyongyang, to support United Nations sanctions.

In Guam, authorities welcomed the apparent lifting of the missile threat from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“We are happy that the rhetoric has calmed down, that he won’t be pursuing his threats to fire missiles at Guam,” said Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio. “The comments allay some of the concerns and the fears.”

The U.S. military on Guam would maintain a high level of readiness to respond to any threat, said Greg Kuntz, deputy public affairs officer for Joint Region Marianas.

Guam is home to two major U.S. military bases. The island is situated roughly 3,800 miles west of Hawaii and 2,100 miles south-southeast of Pyongyang.

The North Korea Crisis

A timeline of the escalating tensions between Washington and Pyongyang

  • July 4, 2017

    North Korea test-launches its first intercontinental ballistic missile, a weapon capable of hitting the mainland U.S.
  • July 28, 2017

    A North Korean missile flies even higher in a new test, establishing that if launched at a standard trajectory it could hit the contiguous U.S. states and possibly go as far as Denver and Chicago.PHOTO: KOREAN CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY/ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • Aug. 5, 2017

    In a show of unanimity, the United Nations Security Council approves new sanctions against North Korea.
  • Aug. 6, 2017

    North Korea calls the sanctions “a frontal attack on our republic and violent infringement on our sovereignty.”
  • Aug. 8, 2017

    President Donald Trump says North Korea will be met with “fire and fury” if it continues threatening the U.S.PHOTO: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

  • Aug. 9, 2017

    North Korea says it is considering plan to launch four missiles to surround Guam with “enveloping fire.”
  • Aug. 10, 2017

    Mr. Trump ratchets up his rhetoric, saying maybe his threat of fire and fury “wasn’t tough enough.”
  • Aug. 11, 2017

    Mr. Trump tweets that military solutions to the crisis are “in place, locked and loaded.” Separately, Mr. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping discuss North Korea by phone. China says it urged restraint. The U.S. says the leaders affirmed the importance of the new sanctions.
  • Aug. 12, 2017

    The Trump administration announces plan to investigate alleged Chinese intellectual-property theft.
  • Aug. 14, 2017

    China announces ban on imports of coal, iron and seafood from North Korea.
  • Aug. 15, 2017

    North Korea says it has decided not to carry out missile attack on Guam.PHOTO: JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES

Source: Staff and news reports

Write to Jonathan Cheng at jonathan.cheng@wsj.com and Lucy Craymer at Lucy.Craymer@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/seoul-warns-u-s-against-unilateral-military-action-against-north-korea-1502781287

Taliban ‘Open Letter’ to Trump Urges US to Leave Afghanistan — After 16 years of war

August 15, 2017

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban have sent an “open letter” to President Donald Trump, reiterating their calls for America to leave Afghanistan after 16 years of war.

In a long and rambling note in English that was sent to journalists on Tuesday by Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, the insurgents say Trump recognized the errors of his predecessors by seeking a review of the U.S. strategy for Afghanistan.

Mujahid says Trump should not hand control of the U.S. Afghan policy to the military but rather, announce the withdrawal of U.S. forces — and not an increase in troops as the Trump administration has planned.

The note, which is 1,600 words long, also says a U.S. withdrawal would “truly deliver American troops from harm’s way” and bring about “an end to an inherited war.”

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Security officials inspect the scene of the blast outside the Great Mosque in Herat, August 1, 2017.

Mattis warns North Korea to stop actions that would ‘lead to end of regime’

August 9, 2017

Reuters

AUGUST 9, 2017 / 12:57 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Wednesday told North Korea it must stop any action that would “lead to the end of its regime” and “stand down” in its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

These are some of strongest comments Mattis has made on North Korea. In the past he has said that the United States can respond to North Korea, but any military solution would be “tragic on an unbelievable scale.”

“The DPRK must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons,” Mattis said in a statement. DPRK is short for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people,” Mattis said.

“The DPRK regime’s actions will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours and would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates,” he added.

Image: Trump is introduced by Mattis during the commissioning ceremony of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford at Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, Virginia

President Donald Trump is introduced by Defense Secretary James Mattis during the commissioning ceremony of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford at Naval Station Norfolk. Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

Mattis added that while the State Department was making diplomatic efforts, the United States and its allies have the most “precise, rehearsed and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on Earth.”

Despite the statement by Mattis, U.S officials say that for now, additional assets have not been moved to the region and the threat assessment has not changed.

The United States has 28,500 troops in South Korea to guard against the North Korean threat. Japan hosts around 54,000 U.S. military personnel, the U.S. Department of Defense says, and tens of thousands of Americans work in both countries.

Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by James Dalgleish

US Confirms Airstrike Killed Al-Shabab Commander in Somalia

August 4, 2017

MOGADISHU, Somalia — The U.S. military is confirming it killed a high-level commander of the al-Shabab extremist group with an airstrike in Somalia over the weekend.

A statement Friday says the strike on July 30 killed Ali Mohamed Hussein, also known as Ali Jabal.

The statement says he was “was responsible for leading al-Shabab forces operating in the Mogadishu and Banadiir regions in planning and executing attacks against the capital of Mogadishu.”

The U.S. Africa Command statement says the airstrike occurred near Tortoroow, an al-Shabab stronghold in Lower Shabelle region in southern Somalia.

President Donald Trump earlier this year approved expanded military operations against al-Shabab, including more aggressive airstrikes and considering parts of southern Somalia areas of active hostilities.

The al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab is the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa.

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The U.S. military and the Somali government say an air-strike Sunday targeted and killed a senior member of the al-Shabab extremist group.

Somali intelligence officials who asked not to be named identified the target as Ali Mohamed Hussein, who served as al-Shabab’s shadow governor for Mogadishu and has been one of the group’s most outspoken members.

Hussein, also known as Ali Jabal, was known for forcing Mogadishu businesses to donate money to the Islamist militants.

Somalia’s information minister, Abdurahman Omar Osman, told VOA Somali that President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “approved an operation with international partners on 30 July near Tortoroow, killing a key al-Shabab leader behind Mogadishu bombings, assassinations.”

Tortoroow is an al-Shabab stronghold in the Lower Shabelle region in southern Somalia.

A brief statement on the attack from the U.S. Africa Command said the air-strike took place late Saturday, eastern U.S. time. The statement added no civilians were killed.

The statement added the air-strike was conducted in coordination with regional partners “as a direct response to al-Shabab actions, including recent attacks on Somali forces.”

In this 2011 file photo, hundreds of newly trained al-Shabab fighters perform military exercises in the Lafofe area some 18 km south of Mogadishu, Somalia. Farah Abdi Warsameh/AP
In this 2011 file photo, hundreds of newly trained al-Shabab fighters perform military exercises in the Lafofe area some 18 km south of Mogadishu, Somalia. Farah Abdi Warsameh/AP

“The strike targeted two vehicles in which the militants were travelling in at Buula-Banin village near Tortoroow in the Lower Shabelle region,” said Hassan Husein Mohamed, the security minister of South West regional administration. “Missiles from foreign military planes struck the vehicles and we are still in the middle of confirming the result.”

President Donald Trump earlier this year approved expanded military operations against al-Shabab, including more aggressive air-strikes and considering parts of southern Somalia areas of active hostilities.

Meanwhile, the Somali president held an emergency meeting with the country’s heads of security agencies on Monday. Sources told VOA it focused on the latest security incidents in the country.

The meeting came a day after the militants carried out two deadly attacks in Somalia. In the first, militants ambushed a convoy carrying African Union troops in Lower Shabelle. At least 18 soldiers were killed, according to a senior Somali military officer.

In the second, a massive car bomb explosion killed at least 10 people and wounded 15 on a busy Mogadishu street.

Harun Maruf contributed to this report.

http://allafrica.com/stories/201708010135.html

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Afghan Official Says Bomber Who Hit NATO Wore Woman’s Burqa, Was Riding a Motorcycle

August 4, 2017

KABUL, Afghanistan — An Afghan official says the suicide bomber who hit a NATO patrol, killing one service member and two Afghan civilians, had hid behind the all-enveloping women’s garment known as a burqa.

Abdul Sami Sharifi, governor of the district of Qarabagh, located north of the Afghan capital, said on Friday that the attacker was riding a motorcycle.

He says the bomber rammed his motorcycle into a NATO patrol late the previous night.

The U.S. military in Afghanistan reported the death of the coalition member but not identify the soldier’s nationality. The statement said another five service members and their Afghan translator were hurt in the attack, but were in stable condition.

The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack in a telephone call to The Associated Press.

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